Ninja Na­tion, Cen­ten­nial, Colorado Learn to be a ‘ninja war­rior’ at these gyms

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Larry Bleiberg

Ninja ath­letes aren’t found just on TV. NBC’s: “Amer­i­can Ninja War­rior,” which has com­peti­tors rac­ing through in­ge­nious and di­a­bol­i­cal ob­sta­cles, has sparked the devel­op­ment of ninja gyms and leagues across the coun­try. The lo­cales train fu­ture ninja war­riors and of­ten cater to kids, who come for par­ties and train­ing. But they also wel­come drop-in vis­i­tors of all ages. “It’s a place for peo­ple who watch the show and say ‘I can do that’ to see if they re­ally can,” says Grant Mc­Cart­ney of Is­land­ninja.com, a top com­peti­tor who pro­motes the sport around the world. He shares some fa­vorite gyms with Larry Bleiberg for USA TO­DAY.

Mc­Cart­ney calls this gym state of the art. “They didn’t spare ex­pense. It’s show-qual­ity and tech savvy. They have ev­ery­thing.” Ex­pect to find ob­sta­cles like float­ing steps, a warped climb­ing wall and a sal­mon lad­der, a no­to­ri­ous chal­lenge of leap­ing pull-ups. “It’s a very hard ob­sta­cle, and one kids re­ally want to do.” Ad­di­tional lo­ca­tions in Colorado and Texas. nin­ja­na­tion.com

Iron Sports, Hous­ton

Ninja leg­end Sam Sann’s gym has helped pre­pare le­gions of show com­peti­tors, and many work for him as coaches. This no-non­sense set-up has the most tech­ni­cal ob­sta­cles for elite-level train­ing, says Mc­Cart­ney, who will be work­ing out there this year. “The place is lit­er­ally jam-packed with ob­sta­cles.”

iron­sportsfit.com

Ul­ti­mate Nin­jas, Chicago

You’ll feel like you’re in a TV stu­dio at this small chain of gyms in the Chicago area and St. Louis. “They are show qual­ity. They have the lights and the timers and the buzzers,” Mc­Cart­ney says. The lo­cales spon­sor all-ages pro camps where pro­fes­sional ninja ath­letes teach the tricks of the trade.

ul­ti­maten­in­jas.com

Ob­sta­cle Academy, Edna, Min­nesota

Ninja star­dom isn’t just for men. Sarah Schoback, known as the Ninja of the North, brings her ex­per­tise to this Twin Ci­ties gym known for its staff and train­ing.

“She has got some ex­tremely strong coaches. It’s not that you just get the ob­sta­cles, but you’re go­ing to get a high­level coach­ing,” Mc­Cart­ney says. “You can train and be ready for the com­pe­ti­tion in­stead of show­ing up and hop­ing for the best.” ob­sta­cle-academy.com

Ul­ti­mate Back­yard War­rior, Rocky Mount, North Carolina

As the name sug­gests, this gym started out as a home project. It was a la­bor of love, con­structed from tele­phone poles and ply­wood, and even in­cludes a wa­ter pit. Now it at­tracts fam­i­lies and com­peti­tors from around the coun­try. “It’s a back­yard course turned it into a pro­fes­sional gym. It’s like Dis­ney­land for ninja war­riors,” Mc­Cart­ney says.

ub­wfit.com

Real Life Ninja Academy, Wind­sor, Con­necti­cut

Ninja Drew Dreschel, who has com­peted on Sa­suke, Ja­pan’s ver­sion of the show, wel­comes every­one at his di­aledin gym. “Drew is ar­guably the best ninja right now and all his ob­sta­cles come from his ex­per­tise,” Mc­Cart­ney says. “He’s on the cut­ting edge of ev­ery­thing. A real in­sider.” In­spired vis­i­tors can even pur­chase ob­sta­cles to use at home.

re­al­lifen­in­jaa­cademy.com

Ob­sta­cle War­rior Kids, Gar­land, Texas

With lo­ca­tions across Texas and in Utah, this gym offers tons of room to play. It hosts na­tional ninja league com­pe­ti­tions, along with par­ties, classes, and open course time. “Kids can show up and feel at ease. They can go crazy on ob­sta­cles, hav­ing a blast and wear­ing them­selves out,” Mc­Cart­ney says.

ob­sta­cle­war­riorkids.com

DoJoBoom, Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia

Head to this ex­treme re­cre­ation park man­aged by show reg­u­lar Kevin Bull, and per­haps some of the cham­pion’s ninja magic will rub off on you. Mc­Cart­ney says he par­tic­u­larly likes the de­sign of the ob­sta­cles, some of which in­cor­po­rate clear plas­tics. “It’s just nice dé­cor. You have re­ally nice aes­thet­ics and some tram­po­lines, and other fun stuff as well.” Ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude a foam pit, ex­treme dodge­ball, slack line and trapeze. dojoboom.com

Ninja Quest Fit­ness, Ma­ri­etta, Ge­or­gia

You’ll find some of the new­est most up-to-date ninja chal­lenges at this space just out­side At­lanta. “It has a lot of the new ob­sta­cles. As soon as you see it on the show, they have them built in a cou­ple weeks,” Mc­Cart­ney says.

nin­jaque­stfitness.com

APEX School of Move­ment Nor­cal, Con­cord, Cal­i­for­nia

This San Fran­cisco-re­gion gym was one of the first to fea­ture show-qual­ity ob­sta­cles. “They’ve been around, and you can see a lot of the LA and north­ern Cal­i­for­nia nin­jas train there,” Mc­Cart­ney says. The owner not only has com­peted, but also has a phys­i­cal ther­apy back­ground. “You can get real com­pre­hen­sive train­ing.”

apex­move­ment­nor­cal.com

NIN­JA­NA­TION.COM

Ninja Na­tion, with lo­ca­tions in Colorado and Texas, of­fers show-qual­ity ob­sta­cles like float­ing steps, a warped climb­ing wall and a sal­mon lad­der.

DOJOBOOM.COM

Ninja ath­lete Kevin Bull man­ages DoJoBoom, an ex­treme re­cre­ation park in Cal­i­for­nia.

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